AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2009 6:11 AM

Obama turns to Congress, allies to support massive, costly troop expansion in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democrats are complaining about President Barack Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Republicans are unhappy with his promise to withdraw troops in 18 months, but Congress appears willing to approve the buildup's $30 billion price tag.

Lawmakers planned to use two days of high-profile hearings on the war, beginning Wednesday, to express their misgivings about the plan, which calls for a quick infusion of troops through July 2011, when the U.S. will begin to withdraw its forces.

Obama's escalation strategy won quick backing from NATO allies. But Afghan leaders, while praising the speech, had questions about the 18-month timetable for withdrawal.

Obama pledged Tuesday night to an audience of Army cadets at the U.S. Military Academy that the shift from surge to exit strategy would depend on the military situation in Afghanistan.

"We will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground," Obama said, declaring that the nation's security was at stake and that the additional troops were needed to "bring this war to a successful conclusion."

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Top US commander in Afghanistan "absolutely supportive" of 18-month timeline for US surge

KABUL (AP) _ The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan says he's "absolutely supportive" of the 18-month timeline for President Barack Obama's troop surge even if Taliban forces try to wait out the increased U.S. commitment.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal told reporters Wednesday that even if the Taliban lay low, the 18-month period allows time to bolster Afghan military and governing capability to make it harder for the militants to return.

McChrystal also pointed out that the 18-month period to begin a U.S. withdrawal depends on conditions on the ground.

The general spoke after Obama announced plans to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan but begin a drawdown in July 2011 as conditions permit.

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Iran releases 5 British sailors detained after their yacht mistakenly entered Iranian waters

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran released on Wednesday five British sailors detained last week when their 60-foot racing yacht drifted accidentally into Iran's Persian Gulf waters and was seized. Britain welcomed the end of the men's ordeal.

The elite Revolutionary Guard, whose navy had stopped the vessel, interrogated the yachtsmen and found that their "illegal entry" into Iranian waters had been a mistake, the official IRNA news agency said.

The release is an overture to London, which has been trying to keep the incident from getting tangled up in politics _ not only in the rancor between Tehran and the West over Iran's nuclear issue but also the country's own internal postelection turmoil, which has pumped up the leadership's fears of foreign plots.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he received confirmation of the release and that the five Britons were being towed to international waters.

"I welcome the fact this has been dealt with in a straightforward, professional way by the Iranian authorities," Miliband said. "Obviously this has been a real ordeal for the young men and their families and I'm really delighted that it's over for them and that we can call the matter closed."

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Gate-crashers admit in e-mail they went to White House dinner without confirmed invitation

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Copies of e-mails between the White House party crashers and a Pentagon official undermine their claims that they were invited to President Barack Obama's first state dinner.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi pressed the friendly Pentagon aide for four days to score tickets to the big event. By their own admission in the e-mails, they showed up at the White House gates at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 24 without an invitation _ "to just check in, in case it got approved since we didn't know, and our name was indeed on the list!"

But the Secret Service has said they weren't on that list and that it erred by letting them in anyway.

In an e-mail sent just hours after last week's dinner to Pentagon official Michele Jones, the Salahis claimed a dead cell phone battery prevented them from hearing Jones' voice mail earlier that day advising them they did not make the guest list.

A collection of e-mails between the Salahis and Jones was obtained Tuesday night by The Associated Press from a source who got them in a manner that confirmed their authenticity.

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GM CEO resigns as board demands swifter turnaround, Henderson frustrated by second-guessing

DETROIT (AP) _ The leader of the new General Motors was done in by an old problem at the nation's largest car maker: Change wasn't happening fast enough.

GM's board and CEO Fritz Henderson parted ways Tuesday, the board upset that the automaker's turnaround wasn't moving more swiftly and Henderson frustrated with second-guessing, two people close to the former CEO said.

Board Chairman Ed Whitacre Jr., the former head of AT&T Inc., will take over as CEO while a global search is conducted.

It was unclear whether Henderson or the board moved first in the surprise resignation, which came just hours before Henderson was to be the high-profile keynote speaker at the Los Angeles Auto Show. At a hastily called news conference at General Motors Co.'s downtown Detroit headquarters, Whitacre would not answer questions, but said the board and Henderson agreed that he should step down.

Whitacre thanked Henderson, 51, a lifelong GM employee, for his leadership and said the company is on the right path toward offering high-quality cars and trucks worldwide.

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Seattle shooting death of man wanted in slaying of 4 cops ends 2 days of fear, frantic manhunt

SEATTLE (AP) _ An ex-con accused of gunning down four police officers patched the gunshot wound to his belly with gauze and duct tape and managed to elude a massive manhunt until a lone officer stopped to check out a suspicious vehicle in the middle of the night.

Moments later, Maurice Clemmons was dead.

Clemmons' death early Tuesday brought to an end two days of fear across the Seattle-Tacoma area and one of the biggest manhunts the region has ever seen. Dozens of police officers milled around at the scene afterward, some solemnly shaking hands and patting each other on the back.

Officer Benjamin Kelly had spotted a stolen car, its hood up and engine running, on a south Seattle street and pulled over to check it out. As the patrolman sat in his cruiser, a burly man with a large mole on his cheek came up from behind, Assistant Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel said.

The officer turned, stepped outside his car and recognized the most wanted man in the Pacific Northwest. Clemmons, 37, was shot by the patrolman after Clemmons made a move for a gun he had taken from one of the slain officers, police said.

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$164 fine settles legal issues, but not the intense media scrutiny of Woods' private life

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Tiger Woods didn't have to say a word to get Florida troopers off his case. The same strategy may be harder to pull off when it comes to the tabloid media probing his private life.

The police inquiry into the early morning car crash involving the world's most famous athlete came to a close Tuesday, even though Woods refused to talk to the Florida Highway Patrol. Woods was charged with careless driving, which carries a $164 fine and four points on his driving record.

That good news for Woods was tempered by the cover story of Us Weekly magazine, which hits newsstands Wednesday, alleging that a Los Angeles cocktail waitress had a 31-month affair with the world's No. 1 golfer.

Jaimee Grubbs told the magazine she met Woods at a Las Vegas nightclub the week after the 2007 Masters _ two months before Woods' wife, Elin Nordegren, gave birth to their first child. Grubbs claims to have proof in 300 text messages, and the magazine said it would release a voice mail message that Woods left for Grubbs last week on its Web site Wednesday.

Woods, meanwhile, remained in seclusion in the exclusive gated community of Isleworth, while some of the world's top golfers were in Southern California preparing for the start of a tournament he hosts. Woods, citing injuries from the crash, issued a statement Monday saying he would not attend or play in the Chevron World Challenge.

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Democrats decry 'scare tactics' as GOP senator says seniors will 'die sooner' under overhaul

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Republican senator asserted Tuesday during a rancorous floor debate that President Barack Obama's health care overhaul will shorten the lives of America's seniors by cutting Medicare.

"I have a message for you: You're going to die sooner," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., an obstetrician-turned-lawmaker.

A senior Democrat decried such comments as scare tactics designed to kill legislation that he said would improve some benefits for seniors. At times, the debate recalled the raw charges and countercharges of the summer's town hall meetings.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., defended the health care legislation, saying it would make Medicare a smarter buyer and improve prescription coverage and preventive benefits for seniors.

"I hate to say it ... these are scare tactics," Baucus said. "Sometimes you've got to call a spade a spade." The Senate was debating an amendment by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would strip from the bill more than $400 billion in Medicare cuts to home health providers, hospitals, hospices and others.

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Trial of John Demjanjuk on Nazi war crimes charges canceled for day after defendant falls ill

MUNICH (AP) _ The trial of John Demjanjuk on charges of accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews as a death camp guard was called off for the day Wednesday after a doctor determined he was too ill to come to court.

Presiding Judge Ralph Alt said the doctor examined Demjanjuk, 89, in a prison hospital two hours before the session due to begin, and determined that he had a fever caused by an unidentified infection. The fever continued to rise despite medication, and the doctor decided it was not safe to transport him to court, Alt said.

"This chamber has determined not to proceed because it is not that the defendant does not want to come, but that he cannot come," Alt said.

The day was to have featured more testimony, which began Tuesday, from some of the approximately 40 relatives of victims who have joined the trial as co-plaintiffs as allowed under the German legal system.

Michael Koch, an attorney for about 30 of them, said his clients were "slightly frustrated" by the decision, but had always understood it was a possibility and would tell their stories another day.

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Bobby Bowden to retire as Florida State's coach after bowl game

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Bobby Bowden orchestrated one of the great runs in college football, building Florida State into a powerhouse that produced two national titles, dozens of All-Americans and some of the most memorable missed field goals ever.

Bowden said Tuesday he will end his 44-year coaching career after the Seminoles play in a bowl game. Bowden was done in by a combination of off-field woes, too many defeats and coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher ready to take over.

"Nothing lasts forever, does it?" a relaxed-looking Bowden asked during video interview conducted by school officials. "But I've had some wonderful years here at Florida State, you know it. Hadn't done as good lately as I wish I could have, but I've had wonderful years, no regrets."

The 80-year-old Bowden will retire as the second winningest coach in major-college football behind Penn State's Joe Paterno. The folksy coach has won 388 games at Samford, West Virginia and Florida State, where he spent the last 34 seasons.

Bowden was faced with the option of coming back next season with diminished control over the program, giving Fisher more power.